By Benjie Cooper
YouTube: Lucid’s Vlog
In a press release posted to their website on April 11, Acreage Holdings announced the appointment of former Speaker of the House, John Boehner [R], and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld [R] to their Board of Advisers. Acreage is a New York-based cannabis company with medicinal and adult use licenses for cultivation, processing, and dispensing operations in eleven states.
“I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved,” tweeted Boehner on the 11th. “I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”
But the two new appointments are somewhat out-of-step with positions that both Boehner and Weld have previously held regarding cannabis. In the past, the pair has demonstrated a long history of opposition to marijuana on both personal and professional levels.
In addition to holding the office of governor from 1991-1997, Weld also served as United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1981-1986, and United States Attorney General for the Criminal Division from 1986-1988 under President Ronald Reagan.
During his service under the Reagan Administration in the midst of the United States’ war on drugs, Weld managed seven-hundred employees and oversaw the entirety of federal prosecutions, including marijuana cases brought by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
But only a few years after his term as Attorney General, Weld changed his mind and was in favor of medical marijuana by 1992 and supported the measure that legalized adult-use marijuana in Massachusetts in 2016.
Weld was registered as a Republican throughout his political career until 2016 when he switched his party affiliation to Libertarian.
John Boehner served as the House Majority Leader (2006-2007) and then-House Minority Leader (2007-2011) before stepping into the role of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015. After retiring from his position as speaker, Boehner joined the board of directors at the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company in 2016.
When Boehner retired and vacated his office, the incoming House Representative Paul Ryan had the carpets replaced and the room repainted due to the strong smell of cigarettes that the former Speaker freely consumed within.
While known to be an alcohol drinker and a heavy cigarette smoker, Boehner’s traditional stance on cannabis has been in-line with that of the federal government’s official narrative and Schedule I status.
“I am unalterably opposed to the legalization or any other FDA Schedule I drug,” stated Boehner in 2011. “I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But since witnessing how medicinal cannabis helped a good friend manage their debilitating back pain, and after seeing marijuana’s potential as a beneficial treatment for military veterans, Boehner changed his mind on how he felt about the plant. The years he spent studying the criminal justice system also helped alter his mindset.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” said Boehner in a recent interview with Bloomberg. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
And while Weld has supported medicinal cannabis since the early nineties, neither he nor Boehner has tried marijuana. Though in reality, whether or not a supporter has actually experienced the ingestion of the plant is of less importance than the support itself.
“While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy,” wrote Weld and Boehner in the Acreage press release. “Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy.”
They continue by pointing out how federal policy is a real problem for legal states and is causing more harm than good.
“While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug,” they write. “Most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.”
They conclude their statement by saying that they are, “excited to join the team at Acreage in pursuit of their missions to bring safe, consistent and reliable products to patients and consumers who could benefit. We have the full confidence in their management team and believe this is the team that will transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue.”
“Acreage has a mission to make cannabis available to any patient who can benefit from safe and reliable access,” said the company’s founder and CEO Kevin Murphy in regards to the new appointments. “The addition of Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight. These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry.”
According to the release, both Boehner and Weld will also be joining the company’s Board of Directors when it is formed and other positions are filled.